We did it. Second camping trip of the summer.
The first trip was a site four hours away beside the Pacific Ocean. It was amazing. It was beautiful, buggy, hot, dirty and rainy. (one of the mornings)
Trip #2 was beside a lake, Deep Lake to be exact. It was very cool. We had a giant site that backed to a small back trail to the lake. No one used it except our site and the one next to us. It was like having a campsite and a backyard. It was awesome for the kids. So overall it was a beautiful, buggy, hot, dusty and rainy (one morning) trip. .. but totally different than the first.
This time we had our Jeep. We traded our spacious, comfortable, big, roomy, versatile minivan for a utilitarian, fun to drive, high profile Wrangler. We had to first get an extended tray-type trailer to hitch so we could also bring a cooler and our tent. The cooler is huge and takes up the entire back of the Jeep, otherwise. It actually all fit pretty snugly. My husband is good at real life Tetris. 🙂 The other thing we traded off from the van to the Jeep is space between our little rainbows of joy and ourselves. Yes. We actually suffered an aneurism at some point because this new setup actually puts them directly behind us, and immediately next to each other. In a van, they get their own captain chairs to hit each other from. The temptation to physically annoy the other person is far more overwhelming in the Jeep. It’s considered a sport in the van. You have enough room in a van to throw something and possibly miss the intended target.
But the van would not have cleared the bumps and bounces like the Wrangler. I was not white-knuckling the handles while my husband drove the vehicle and bottomed it out on a ditch. No bumpers were ripped off when backing out from a parking spot because they overlapped a curb.
Back to camping. So this new locale was only a 2hr drive away = fabulous pro.
We arrived only mildly harrowed from the afore mentioned close-quartered drive. We set up and let the kids run wild. We camped next to a family that conveniently had a 5 yr old girl and a 7 yr old boy, so our kids were playing and running and exploring. Once night fell, my daughter put on her head lamp and ran around. I was trying to get the news stories of missing/abducted children at campsites out of my head. We were constantly checking in with the kids as they ran around… until after a little while I realized we didn’t hear the girls anymore. The boys were nearby. “Where’s your sister?” “Over there somewhere..” we called out, no answer.
The stories began to swim to the front of my mind. My husband was messing with something by the picnic table. I was in the tent. The neighbors didn’t seem worried. I was worried. We called again. We all started to take it seriously. It was getting dark. The boys went out looking, my husband took off, I began to follow just as someone shouted they had found the girls. It wasn’t far at all. They were still within range of our campsite, but behind the two campsites was a woody trail parallel to a bike trail that all led to the access road. The girls were really only maybe 100 yards from our site, but it was scary. That brief 30 second stick with you kind of scary because it involves your kid. It all turned out totally fine, but the girls were talked to about it in a way they could understand… i hope.
We ate dinner, we were eaten (by bugs bugs and more bugs) and hit the air mattresses by 9:30. By 2am my husband was awake and on his kindle. Thankfully that actually worked because at 2:30am I heard the pitter patter of rain drops. Hubby went out into the buggy wild and attached the rain guard.
sidenote: why is it that when you actually attach the rain guard in the 85 degree heat and cut off any air circulation, there is no rain. Leave the thing off (or partially attached in our case) you ensure an hour of rain drops somewhere between 2 and 5am ?!
Somewhere around 4:30am we finally got back to sleep just to be awoken by our little cherubs at 7; (whispered desperate “MOM! I gotta peeee!”)
We went about our morning and by the afternoon we were ready for the lake. The sand-bottomed, algae floating lake covered in quasi-supervised children who never left the water for any reason at all … like to use a bathroom.
My daughter, who cannot swim, was decked out in a life jacket AND her turtle floatee was having a blast. The neighboring campers’ 5 yr old was also swimming. She kept trying to pull my kid into the deeper water. Not only was I on ‘drowning lookout’ in the rather shallow water, I was also on Child of the Corn lookout to ensure my kid wasn’t lured to her death by a well-meaning unsupervised kid. I had to tell the neighbor three times, “Don’t pull her, honey. She’ll go when she’s ready.”
and i’d get the blank stare as if I just spoke Russian.
Three minutes later I see her pulling on my kid’s floatee.
“Nope! Do not pull her in. She will go if she wants to.”
The warnings became shorter and less friendly until she finally gave up and guess what? My kid found her own way to the deeper water – i.e. waste deep instead of knee-deep.
After repeatedly saving my kid from being drowned, we decide to rent a canoe. That’ll be fun, right? Who wouldn’t want to rent a cheap canoe on a lake named Deep Lake with 2 smallish kids that can’t swim?
The two teenagers running the rental shack looked quite amused as we lumbered up to them. We requested our canoe and until now, I noticed only one dude was helping people get in and out of their aquatic vehicles. Now suddenly there were two. (??) Getting up the mud-submerged steps to the itty bitty dock was our first challenge. The mud swallowed one of my shoes, and quickly sucked my daughters croc as dessert. Once we fished them out, we were ready.
I carefully enter the canoe while trying to take seriously the clammy unsteady teenage hand that was trying to guide me. The whole time i’m imagining him actually trying to catch me if I fell over and into the 3ft water. I was the first in because apparently the chicks sit in the front. The kids boarded next, and then my husband.
Now, i’m not saying Rhinos can’t canoe, but I can tell you two obese parents and their two swim-less children cannot.
From the moment they shoved us off, that boat bobbed and weaved within an inch of the water line on each side of the death boat. No laughing was permitted for fear of capsizing. Rowing the oar was terrifying. I’ve never sat so ramrod straight for so long in my entire life. The children were silent at first, until I started screaming at my husband to be still….. which was confusing for him, because he was not moving – he claims-except to row.
So all in all our canoe experience can be summed up in 50 yards of me sitting straight up, with nothing moving but my arms to row, my daughter behind me silent as a stone, my son freaking out and parroting everything I was yelling and threatening to my bewildered and bemused husband who had a front row seat from the back row claiming to not be moving at all while our canoe weebled and wobbled left to right dipping us just to the edge of the top of the boat.
After 50 yards I called it. “We’re going back!!!”
We managed to turn the ‘vessel’ around and paddle back to the dock. I nearly caused a scene by doing the splits getting out and shouting a four letter word my kids thought was a highlight of our trip.
“Wanna try a peddle boat?”
“NO!!!” the three sane ones shouted at my husband.
“Fine. But if we don’t like it, we come right back.”
We liked it. It was beautiful. It was not wobbly. There was a canopy and no imminent threat of death for any of us. Thankfully i’ve been working out for the last three weeks with an amazing trainer, so the peddling was not overwhelming. We were out for about 40 – 45 minutes. We saw baby trout, lots of dragon flies, a family on a giant raft with their chihuahua.
After getting back I decide to try out the token showers. My husband informed me that we each had two to use. Wow. 6 whole minutes of hot water!
Newsflash: I cannot manage to work a public shower, wash my hair, rinse, condition, rinse, and get all the nooks and crannies in 6 minutes.
I finished out the shower with ICE water to rinse the rest of my conditioner. After toweling off, I realize there’s still conditioner in my hair. I attempt to rinse my hair in the sink… .where all sorts of public things happen like post bathroom hand washing, toothpaste spitting, loogie hocking, and god knows what else. I decide a conditioning treatment wouldn’t hurt afterall and just put it all in a clip.
After dinner and games and shadow puppets and giggling, we spent the last night there and packed up and left the next morning.
It was a great trip. I’d like to think the kids will remember it, but who knows? Lucky for them I keep a very public account of all of our vacations 🙂